Once called the dirtiest city in India, Surat achieved a remarkable transformation in less than two years after the plague of December 1994 owing to improved municipal management and strong leadership.
Following the outbreak of the plague in the outskirts of the city, the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) launched a seven-point action plan that involved the government, NGOs, civil society, and private sector.
The action plan
1. Operation Clean-Up: In May 1995, with a new elected government in place and a new CEO in charge, a major drive was launched for slum improvement and solid waste management (SWM). Simultaneously, the city administration was totally revamped, staff and equipment redistributed, and contracting for solid waste collection and street cleaning initiated.
2. SMC’s initiatives: Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) worked to implement an integrated system through rehabilitation of existing sanitary staff, asset utilisation and superior technologies. SMC implemented part of the system through JNNURM funds and part with public-private partnership (PPP). The SWM project aimed to reinforce primary and secondary collection, transportation, and development of transfer stations (TS) and sanitary landfill site. SMC pioneered ‘time place movement’ wherein collection vehicles move in accordance with the time schedule with areas of coverage and number of units allotted. The 6 TS handle the entire 1,400 TPD of waste generated in Surat.
3. Administrative revamping: To improve SWM, the six zones of the city were further subdivided into 52 sanitary wards, each with one sanitary inspector, two sanitary sub-inspectors, and three mukadams (supervisors). Micro-level planning ensures equitable distribution of manpower, machinery and finance. Sweepers were posted round the clock at nuisance spots, and such locations cleaned at least twice a day.
4. PPP for SWM: Solid waste collection and transportation has been contracted out in two zones. In the central and west zones, contractors deploy their own vehicles and labour; they are paid per MT of waste transported. In the other zones, contractors hire vehicles from the government and only labour charges are paid to transport waste to the disposal site. As part of the street-sweeping and scraping contracts, all major roads are now cleaned twice—by the contractor’s staff at night and corporation sweepers during the day.
5. SWM monitoring system: To monitor progress, the Daily Activity Report documents each action taken and resources deployed on an everyday basis across the city.
6. Enforcement: SMC started to enforce strict hygiene and sanitation standards in eating houses, sweetshops, fruit, and vegetable shops. Fines for littering were instituted. An ‘administrative charge’ is now levied on all establishments that fail to adhere to public health standards.
7. Slum improvement: Nearly 40 per cent of Surat’s population lives in slums. Streets were paved with Kota stone to facilitate cleaning and public toilets constructed with the assistance of two NGOs, Sulabh and Paryavaran. In the majority of slum pockets, residents voluntarily donated a part of their dwelling to widen the main streets. Paved surface drains were constructed and community water hydrants provided.
The collection efficiency of Surat has improved from 40 per cent in 1995 to 97 per cent at present, while house-to-house collection coverage has improved to 92 per cent. Three-fourths of the slums are now paved and 41 toilet complexes constructed. SMC generates close to 1,400 TPD of waste of which 400 TPD is currently treated in its waste treatment plant developed and managed in partnership with a private agency. On the anvil are a 600 TPD waste-to-energy plant and a 400 TPD integrated waste treatment plant through PPP mode.
Today, Surat is hailed as the second cleanest city in India, prompting urban local bodies (ULBs) across India to emulate its example.